Since 1991, the FBI has been collecting statistics on hate crimes committed across the country. This week it released its annual report, titled Hate Crime Statistics, 2006, on this particularly disturbing type of crime. The detailed publication covers all reported incidents of hate crime in the past year, as well as information about the offenses, the victims, the offenders, and the locations where the crimes took place. These statistics offer an important look into our own society, and possibly, they can be used to gauge the health of our country’s tolerance and diversity. But unfortunately, this year’s report indicates an increase in these offensive crimes from last year.
Compared with other crimes, hate crimes are motivated by some sort of prejudice against another individual or group. For example, crimes that target a victim because of their race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or disability are classified as hate crimes. Traditionally, the penalties for these crimes are more severe than other crimes, and this is rightfully so. Not only do hate crimes directly affect the victim and their family, but they often spread fear and tension across entire communities. Furthermore, hate crimes are generally committed out of ignorance — offenders fear the differences they see in others and lash out against them.
The FBI’s Hate Crime Statistics, 2006 gives us a chance to take a good, hard look at ourselves as a society and to address the appropriate issues of diversity and tolerance, where they are needed. In reality, hate crimes are acts of terrorism. So let’s think about what we need to do in order to drive these latest statistics back down. After all, we are at war with terror abroad. Let’s not forget the war at home.